100 Stages Fly By Like Butterflies In The Wind
“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away” – Frida Kahlo
Every year in late October the widely known celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) fills the streets of Mexico with innumerable festivities. From ofrendas paying homage to the dead, to palo santo cleansings for the living, to parades down the main boulevards, and painted faces in the streets, the country is debatably at its most convivial when honouring its deceased. While it may seem like one big party on the surface, it is also a very reflective time for many to ponder one’s life, inevitable death and the passage of time.
One annual phenomenon that has coincided with the Day of the Dead for centuries, is the great migration of butterflies. Like clockwork, these monarch mariposas begin their incredible journey south from Canada and the United States in the summer months and, like our riders, make a slow and steady descent down to central Mexico (no border crossings necessary for these lucky bugs). No one knows the exact reason for this continental journey or why these monarchs have been making the yearly trip when not a single one will survive both the trek down south and the return journey back up north. The Mexicans, however, believe these butterflies hold the souls of their deceased ancestors, who pay a visit to Mexico each fall to connect with the living on Dia de los Muertos, the cause for much celebration.
Coincidentally, just after departing Mexico City and the Dia de los Muertos weekend, the North American Epic had its own reason to celebrate. In the small town of Cholula, we completed our 100th stage of riding – a feat that not every TDA tour can boast. Impressive, yes, but consider that we still have another 6 weeks to go until crossing the finish line in Panama City! We were even serenaded that night with a fireworks display that lit up the sky just outside our hotel, overlooking the Great Pyramid of Cholula.
The 100 stage mark was also a time to reflect on our expedition, one that mimics the path of the butterflies – journeying from the vast forests of Canada, through the mountains, plains and rivers of the United States, and on into the tropical warmth of Mexico. Like the butterflies, our trip is a testament to time well spent, and a long time at that. It’s mesmerizing to think of how long our cyclists have been riding, day in and day out. Tours can frequently feel like their own little esoteric bubbles at times, where the concept of time fades away almost entirely and all that is left is the present journey. This is especially true in the case of this tour.
The 100 stage mark reminds one that the world has kept turning. Our starting point in Tuktoyaktuk currently stands at -14°C. The bears that once roamed the Alaska Highway alongside us are now deep into their hibernation cycle. Three other TDA tours (Orient Express, Viva Italia, Trans-Himalaya) have even started and finished during the time we’ve been riding. We’ve covered roughly 11,000 kilometres thus far, and we’re not even close to done yet!
The butterflies may have reached their final destination in Mexico, but we are still pedalling onward and enjoying every minute. While the trip may be more than half over, we can learn from the butterflies and simply bask in the great experience of the journey itself.
North American Epic
Cycling from the Arctic Ocean to Panama City will take you through 9 countries and countless variations in landscape, culture, language, cuisine and...